Once from the Top: Reframing the Role of the Conductor in Ensemble Teaching

Steven J. Morrison and Steven M. Demorest

in The Oxford Handbook of Music Education, Volume 1

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199730810
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Once from the Top: Reframing the Role of the Conductor in Ensemble Teaching

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  • Music Education and Pedagogy



This article, which considers the role of the ensemble conductor in schools to determine to what extent that model leads to independent musicianship, begins by examining the characteristics of modern school conductors, including who they are, how they got there, and what they do. One of the shortcomings of the traditional approach to ensemble rehearsals where the conductor (and only the conductor) identifies the problem and then applies a solution is that there is often a lack of transfer when a similar situation comes up in the future. Conductors must look for ways to involve their students in the rehearsal process and provide opportunities for them to exercise their budding musicianship and enrich their musical understanding. Rehearsals can be a context in which students actively engage rather than simply follow directions—something that happens because of them rather than something that happens to them. Within this framework, the role of the conductor expands to become the role of the collaborator—an expert and professionally trained collaborator, to be sure, but one who works with rather than simply works on younger and less-experienced musicians.

Keywords: musical conductor; music ensembles; school conductors; musicianship

Article.  7755 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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